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Minutes of the Freedmen's Convention, Held in the City of Raleigh, on the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th of October, 1866
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You shall always find me ready, personally or officially, to do anything in my power to aid your people in their efforts to elevate and improve their condition.
RALEIGH, Oct. 4th, 1866.
To the Committee of Invitation of the Colored People's Convention, Raleigh:--
In reply to your invitation of yesterday, I beg leave to say, that my engagements will not permit me to visit yonr Convention; but I have been pleased to be informed of your efforts to educate your people in the State of North-Carolina, and hope they may be attended with success. Of course you do not expect, at once, to establish seminaries for the higher branches of learning, but will direct yonr attention to primary schools, in which are taught those rudiments of knowledge which are most useful and necessary in carrying on the ordinary business of life. With the difficulties now existing of a short crop in the greater portion of the State, the unsettled condition of affairs arising out of the late war, and the sudden emancipation of the colored race, with but little property except that which shall be acquired by daily labor, it will not be an easy matter to maintain schools even of this description; but whenever it is practicable, I hope to see them established.
But there is much of education, and of the most necessary part of it, that is not obtained in schools. How to do work well, and with the greatest advantage, either in a mechanical trade, or on a farm, or in any other business, is the most useful kind of knowledge to people who must live by labor. To have habits of industry in applying one's self to his work, to be faithful to contracts and promises--to be sober, honest and truthful, are lessons which every parent can teach to his children at home, and which will cost nothing except the care and attention that every one will readily bestow. In the present situation of the colored people, the first object of every one should be to obtain an honest livelihood for himself and his family, by labor. The idle will be sure to become vicious, lose the confidence and respect of the community--probably fall into crime, and subject themselves to the punishment of the law. Next to being industrious, they should be frugal--save and lay up what they earn, and when they become able, buy land or other property, and thus advance in the scale of life. Both parents and children who are able to do useful work, should apply themselves to it, until something shall in this way be accumulated. Then they will have the means and time to attend the schools and improve their time. If both objects can be effected at the same time, it will be so much the better. You will perceive that, in my opinion, instruction in morals and virtue, and the religious training derived from hearing the Gospel preached, and in Sunday schools, are more necessnry to your people, at present, than the knowledge of letters and books, and it can be more easily and cheaply obtained. While, therefore, disposed to encourage every well-meant effort to give them schools, I would keep constantly present to their minds, that to elevate their condition nothing is so necessary as to become independent in their circumsances, and that this can only be effected by persevering and honest labor. Very Respectfully,
W. A. GRAHAM.
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